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Helen's Mulberry Lane Farm Journal

Country Bumpkins?

American Agriculture:
Producing More Than Food, Feed, Fiber and Fuel
by Dave Owens, President and CEO of Farm Credit Services of Illinois

American agriculture is the envy of the world. United States producers provide an abundance of food, feed, and fiber for both domestic and international consumption. NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, and other trade initiatives have allowed this abundance to be distributed around the world – particularly beginning in the early 1990’s. The efficiency of American agriculture has allowed access to quality food and feed at lower costs to everyone. While this instills much pride in all of us, the contributions of American farmers goes beyond agricultural production.

Farm Credit recently awarded twenty-three $1,000 college scholarships to college bound students who are pursuing agricultural-related majors and careers. Twenty of those “We Understand” Agriculture Scholars are children of farmers and the others are products of Rural America whose families have ties to agriculture. (editor - our son Matthew was one of the Agriculture Scholars for 2008.)

The scholarship program is a rewarding experience for both the recipient and for Farm Credit. During our scholarship award ceremonies, it occurred to me the exceptional value farm families bring to our culture, our society, and our way of life.

I once participated in a professional conference where I attended a session focused on the profiles, attitudes, and behavior of the different generations in today’s population. I noticed several of the presentation slides included the notation, “excluding children of farm families”. I couldn’t help but ask the presenter why the children of farm families do not fit the normal patterns of Generation X, Generation Y, and Generation Z.

The explanation which followed was explicit, convincing, and a great testament to the extraordinary contribution farm families make to our society. The speaker explained that all of us are influenced by what we experience and observe. For most children, they see their fathers and mothers get dressed in the morning and with brief case, tool belt, or hard hat in hand leave the house to go to “work”. At the end of the day, the parents return home and have some interesting things to say about how their day went. Of course, many times the work experience is described as less than desirable. Children learn firsthand that this place called “work” can be the source of stress and conflict. They can't relate to the abstract because they do not experience it themselves. What exactly is work?

Life on the farm---
some of the best child training there is!

Although many of today’s farm families have parents that “work” both off and on the farm, children of farm families have a totally different experience with respect to their parents’ activities each day. For even the part-time farm operator, their children can observe what Mom and Dad are doing each day. The farm family spends more time together working. The children get to see and experience what “work” is and is not. They form their own opinions of these activities rather than guess and assume. As they grow up, these young people assist the parents as they do daily chores. And of course later in life, most farm children significantly participate in the farm “work” activities. While some may not appreciate and embrace these chores at the time, farm families have a stronger bond and embrace family and work values. The children of farmers have a stronger work ethic and are more likely to have a better vision for their future.

Caleb working with Gerald on our
automatic garden waterer.

Farm families were the norm during the time this country was formed. Our heritage, our culture, and the principles used to form this great nation were all heavily influenced by those who grew up with these same values. Perhaps what the world needs today is more farm families! Children that do not fit the norms of their age group could be the best thing for all of us. As I listened to the hopes and dreams of our scholarship recipients earlier this month, I was reminded of that explanation given to me by the conference speaker when I asked why children of farmers don’t fit the generational stereotypes. I am confident that today’s young people raised on farms who have had positive family and work values instilled in them will provide stability and vision for American agriculture and our society in the future.

We are proud of today’s farm and rural youth! And we salute the American farm family who also produces the valuable commodity of children who are raised with values that set them outside the norm of our society.*


*1 -- Dave Owens, Illinois Farm Bureau Newsletter, Used by permission.


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